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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
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Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I work in an office environment that makes me feel very uncomfortable

Resolved Question:

I work in an office environment that makes me feel very uncomfortable daily. I am the only white woman and my coworkers are all mexican/american. They speak spanish around me daily laughing and carring on and I really feel that they talk about me right in front of me. I know that I should learn their language, but why should I. I have been dealing with this for 9 + years and have finally had it. I just want to know if there is any type of law out there against spanish speaking in an office workplace. It is effecting my performance. Our management team are dominately male English speaking and I have appoached 1 of them recently and they said to just ignore them. Thats easy for him to say!! I am not a prejudice person... HELP!!!
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 5 years ago.

LegalPro54 :

Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question.

LegalPro54 :

I hope that you will appreciate a very direct answer to your question although it may not be exactly what you are hoping to hear.

LegalPro54 :

Contrary to what many people believe, hostility in the work place is generally not actionable. There is no legal requirement that an employees be nice, civil or courteous toto each other and no legal prohibition on name-calling or otherwise treating co-workers in a degrading or disrespectful manner. Such conduct is typically only actionable if it is occurring as a result of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age (over 40), or sexual orientation. (See Govt. Code 12921.)


 

LegalPro54 :

Furthermore, unless the conduct is quite severe, a single incident or isolated incidents of offensive conduct or remarks generally do not create an abusive environment. A “mere utterance of an ethnic or racial epithet which engenders offensive feelings in an employee would not affect the conditions of employment to a sufficiently significant degree to violate Title VII.” Rogers v. EEOC, 454 F.2d 234 (5th Cir. 1971). To the contrary, a “hostile environment” claim generally requires a showing of a significant pattern of offensive conduct.


 

LegalPro54 :

If the comments are attacking you on the basis of your race or another one of the above protected criteria, an employee should typically report the conduct to their employer and explain specifically that harassment is occurring on the basis of race, gender, etc.


 

LegalPro54 :

Under such a circumstance, California law would require an employer to "take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring." (Cal. Gov. Code, § 12940(k); Weeks v. Baker & McKenzie, 63 Cal. App. 4th 1128, 1146, 1174 (1998).) Failure to take appropriate measures may mean that your employer could then be sued.

LegalPro54 :

Thus, to summarize, unless you can demonstrate that the conduct is occurring as a result of your race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age (over 40), or sexual orientation, there would be no cause of action, typically speaking.

LegalPro54 :

If you can prove that such is occurring, you must report it to your employer and they will be obligated by law to address and remedy the situation. The employer must specifically be made aware that you are experiencing harassment on the basis of race, gender, etc.

LegalPro54 :

I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX this information helps you and I wish you the very best of luck. Bear in mind that none of the above constitutes legal advice nor is any attorney client relationship created between us.


 


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